Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Proper Role of NAGE & UKE in Aikido Training

by Tip Harris Sensei

When we train in Aikido, we use the KATA method of training. That is, after the Sensei has demonstrated the attack and defense, and the role he expects the NAGE (the person performing a defensive technique) and UKE (the person attacking) to perform, we pair up with a partner and alternate the roles of NAGE and UKE.

It is important to understand that this KATA form we use is not a contest between NAGE and UKE in which they compete with each other, but rather a controlled situation that both parties should learn from. A proper understanding of the role of both NAGE and UKE is very important for the training to be beneficial to both.

There is a clear distinction between real life and what happens on the DOJO mat. In real life... (CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article.)

Castle Rock Aikido has Japanese martial arts classes exclusively for adults. Visitors are welcome to try a class for free.

We also have a kids martial arts class. These aikido classes are for teens 10-17.

For more information, please visit

Monday, December 28, 2009

Castle Rock Aikido Goes International

Our Aikido School Published in The Netherlands

Castle Rock AIKIDO was recently featured in a European Aikido publication. Aikido Centrum LUAR BIASA, a dojo from The Netherlands, saw a popular article of ours published earlier this year in The Aikido Journal and requested permission to translate the article from English to Dutch. It ws then published in their print version of their November 2009 issue of the dojo "Shishou" or newsletter.

The article was about "Mitori Keiko" or "watch and steal training." The article discussed the importance of continuing to come to Aikido class to observe even when you are injured because of how much a student can learn and improve simply by watching others practice.

The Dutch-translated article is now hanging up in our school's lobby. You can read the English version of this article by clicking here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Iaido Students from Castle Rock Test for Rank

On Saturday, December 12th, Iwakabe, Hideki Sensei held his annual, End of Year Taikai seminar and testing event. Students from four regional Iaido schools attended the event.

Not only did the Castle Rock students pass their tests for rank, but the Castle Rock students performed very well during the seminar's Iaido form competition.

The competition had two levels: 1) a black belt level and 2) an under black belt level. Students from Castle Rock took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the under black belt competition.

Congratulations Peter, Anders, and Sean!

Learn more about the fun and challenging art of drawing the Japanese Samurai Sword by clicking HERE.

Iaido Student Testimonial
"Thank you for your passion, vision and resolve in the creation of the Iaido program... You have enabled me to pursue a long-held dream of studying Iaido... It is my hope that Iaido will assist me in some modest personal refinement. Your aesthetic awareness and appreciation for excellence has created a powerful environment of which you should be very proud."
- Peter in Castle Rock, Colorado

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On Training with Martial Intent...

by Pat Mussleman Sensei

The truth is it's easy to get lost in our martial arts training and lose sight of the primary purpose for being there in the first place. Why do we training martial arts? There are many reasons a person might chose to study martial arts. A person may be looking for such things as fitness, self discipline, a place to meet people, and countless other reasons. But don't forget the primary purpose for studying a martial art... and that is self defense. At the very core of everything we do in Aikido, we are focused on being effective at defending ourselves against an aggressor. Although all the other benefits still exist, I do not believe anyone finds themselves in a martial arts dojo without some desire to accomplish that primary goal.

Most of us are in the dojo for a very small time as compared to the rest of our week. In my last article I touched on the topic of falling and rolling - what we call "ukemi." The idea that we should not dismiss that part of our training is closely related to the desire to maximize our training opportunity during that small window of time. Likewise, we should keep in mind the concept that we are training for the purpose of self defense. I believe very strongly in this idea and speak of it often when I have the opportunity to teach. I see it time and time again that when a defensive technique fails or doesn't feel right the student simply stops and asks their attacking partner or "uke" to attack again. If that is how you train you might as well be doing Tae Bo. I'm not bashing Tae Bo, rather pointing out that you would get the same level of martial arts training with a much better cardio workout. It is my opinion that the martial aspect of any art comes with the intent of the student who studies that art. If you wish to maximize the effectiveness of your Aikido training you must not lose sight of its' martial nature.

The practical application of this concept is simply to never quit. To look at an extreme example, in a life or death situation there is no time out. In that type of situation it is not over until you or your aggressor is stopped. My hope is that every one of you reading this article would train your Aikido (or any martial art) with that kind of "never say die" attitude. In law enforcement it is common to hear "we always win." Police officers have a deeply ingrained sense that no matter what situation they face, they go home at the end of the night. That attitude starts in the training room. If/when the day comes when you face an aggressor with intent to do you or your family harm, the desire to win in that moment won't be enough. Both you and your attacker have the will to win the battle, the difference will depend on who trained to win.

Take any given Aikido technique for example. The instructor has demonstrated the technique and now you are training with your partner. As the defender ("nage") you begin the technique (attempting to emulate what the instructor taught), but you accidently move off line in the wrong direction. At that moment the technique you were training is over, but your martial arts training it not over! This is when the real training happens! If you blunder a technique and still maintain a level of awareness that allows you to do nothing else but to break free of your uke then you have accomplished a great deal. Once you achieve this state of mind you will find other techniques appear before your eyes. When one technique fails you will find three more in its place. In my opinion this kind of awareness and ability to flow from one thing to the next (called "Henka Waza") is far more important than mastery of any one technique. How you train in the dojo is how you will react in a real life encounter. My hope is that everyone would train Aikido sincerely with the intent that someday they may be called upon to use it.

I realize that the subject of this article may be interpreted as being out of line with some of the teachings from the founder of Aikido (Morihei Ueshiba). He taught that true victory was victory over oneself ("Masakatsu Agatsu"). Many quotes and sayings from the founder imply that in budo (martial way) there is no winning or losing. To defeat someone else at their expense is not winning at all. I believe that Morihei Ueshiba was a very wise and profound man and I acknowledge that I will never even come close to grasping Aikido such as he did. That being said, I have to believe that within his idea of Aikido there was still room for physically stopping an attacker with appropriate force when all other methods have failed.

Philosophical debates set aside, Aikido is still a martial way or "budo." O'Sensei taught that "budo is love." Although it is my ultimate goal to understand and embrace that teaching, for now I must follow my heart and train consistent with my current understanding of the art. Just as with anything learned, there is a natural progression. For anyone to believe that they can start their Aikido training with the same level of understanding as O'Sensei is ridiculous. If we study his biography we see that even the founder had a progression and change in philosophy as he grew in his art. In my opinion it is a natural and critical process to begin our study of budo with the focus and intent discussed in this article. The ideals and principles taught by the founder serve as a beacon for our ultimate understanding of Aikido shall we be so fortunate to find that path.

Read Musselman Sensei's previous article HERE.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Practice Iaido?

Why Practice Iaido?

People choose to train Iaido for numerous and varied reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. You have always been enamored with samurai culture and you want to learn more about the art, philosophy, and discipline of Bushido.

2. You want to forge a powerful spirit of self-confidence within yourself and take that spirit deeper into your personal and work life.

3. You still want to practice a martial art, but think you may be too old or believe your body isn't up for a more dynamic activity. You're never too old or too out-of-shape to begin Iaido. There is no falling, no rolling, and no contact. So injury is very rare. This means you can still learn a fun, powerful martial art without having to go to the office the next morning covered in bruises!

4. You want to strengthen your core muscular in your arms, back, torso, pelvis, legs and shoulder, but you want to do so in a fun way!

5. You want to improve your hand-eye coordination, balance, and graceful economy of movement.

6. You have a stressful work or home environment and you need a weekly mental escape.

7. You're looking for a martial art that you can practice just one evening per week!

Through Iaido training, you can learn to project a powerful aura in everyday situations. In time, you can cultivate a commanding confidence and demanding respect of and within yourself by mastering your physical body and projecting it to the world. Please come see what our program has to offer you.

Come find out if Iaido is right for you. We welcome visitors to come watch a class. Call 720-221-3665 or click here to visit our website for more information.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rambling Reflections: Aging & Aikido

by Tip Harris Sensei

As I celebrate my 66th birthday, I presume that I have reached the point where I am considered a "senior martial artist". Reflecting on my 25 or so years of Aikido training, I have noticed that all people age, some slowly in good health and others quickly and in ill health.

I've never been fanatical about my age or aging, as I consider it a natural part of life. Although some people try, there is just no escaping it. To age we must! I do my best to try to keep myself physically and mentally active as my health and circumstances will allow, which is really the best anyone can do. I strongly believe that this is the key to a long and healthy life. Those people, who do not strive to keep their mind and body active in some way, usually deteriorate fairly rapidly and develop more physical and mental problems as they age.

That is not to say that Aikido students (Aikdoka) do not get their fair share of injuries. Becoming a senior martial artist has been very enjoyable and very personally rewarding to me, but not easy, because as we age training doesn’t get any easier. There have been many injuries along my way. An inventory would include numerable cuts and bruises, dislocated toes and sprained fingers, a dislocated shoulder, torn ligaments in both arms, and even worn cartilage in my knees, and aches and pains from old injuries or sore muscles. However, I think that with continuous training we eventually reach a point at which we are able to ignore these pains. I believe that over time, one’s threshold or tolerance of pain is greatly elevated. I know I can have aches and pains here and there; but when I get on the mat and into my "Aikido mind set", they seem to disappear or become very minor.

Some injuries are unavoidable along our Aikido journey. However, I firmly believe that most training injuries are the result of roughness or carelessness. Aikido is a blending of the hard attack on the part of the Uke (the Yang) with an equal but opposite soft reaction on the part of the Nage (the Yin). A balance of the hard and soft energies must be achieved for there to be harmony. Countering hard with hard is not the proper spirit of Aiki. Negative energy must be countered with positive energy.

I have found that if we take the time to practice slowly with proper timing and blending, we can develop our Aikido skills while minimizing the possibility of injury. Speed develops naturally as we improve our techniques and confidence. It is my experience that injuries occur when harmony and blending are missing. While tension and using your strength and lack of coordination are natural at some levels of experience (and we have all been there at some point), there is no excuse for roughness or carelessness in Aikido. To train either with abandon or in fear of being hurt is to ensure an injury. We can, however, train with confidence.

Despite our desire to believe otherwise, we become more vulnerable to injury as we age, and each injury takes longer to heal. As we age, we have to accept this or quit training.

Occasionally, I have been asked, "Why do you continue to train at your age?" My answer is that it is partially from habit because it is an important part of my life, and partially because of the physical and mental challenge it provides. And I've also been asked, "How long do you expect to continue to train?" My response is, "As long as I live and am able to!" Some commitments in our lives are never really finished; they just continue one day at a time. As O-Sensei said when he was much older than I am, "I'm still learning!"

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Succeeding with Samurai Sword Training

Q&A with Iwakabe Sensei

Sensei, what qualities do you think are the most important for an Iaido student to possess?
The most important quality that an Iaido student should have is patience. Learning Iaido is not something you can master overnight. It is a lifetime process. In the beginning, your thoughts are focused only on learning the movements. As you learn the movements, you then learn how the movements are applied. As your experience grows in Iaido, so does your learning. You will even hear from those that have achieved the highest ranks in Iaido that they are still learning. This is a perfect testament that your learning as a student never stops and you must have the patience to keep trying to improve.

Dan Lowry, author of In the Dojo, has a perfect passage on what a student is. "Shoshinsha is another word - a 'person with a beginning mind' - that can describe the new student. The wise student remains a shoshinsa all during his training in the martial Ways, always with a mind that is ready to learn more and always ready to accept that he has not seen it all, no matter how much experience and talent he may gain."

Iaido Student Testimonial
"I can see Iaido carry over to the rest of my life with a self-contained pursuit of constant improvement.

Iaido also gives me a much needed outlet of physical and mental exertion, and time to focus on myself in a stressful work week and career."

Anders L., Castle Rock, Colorado

CLICK HERE to learn more about our Iaido / Samurai Sword program.